Guyana maintains border with Venezuela settled 123 years ago; awaits ICJ’s final, binding decision
See the full statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation below:
123 years ago today an Arbitral Tribunal comprising some of the most eminent judges of their time, presided over by the venerable Russian jurist Frédéric Frommhold de Martens, and appointed by Britain, Venezuela and the United States -Venezuela’s patron, delivered an Award which defined the land boundary between Venezuela and the then British Guiana.
The Tribunal was created by the Treaty of Washington of 1897 under which the parties – both Britain and Venezuela – agreed to accept the Tribunal’s Award as ‘a full, perfect and final settlement’ of the boundary issue. 123 years later, Guyana still accepts and celebrates the Award as such.
Venezuela had applauded the Award. In the words of the law firm handling Venezuela’s case, written in the American Journal of International Law as late as 1949: “The Award secured to Venezuela the mouth of the Orinoco and control of the Orinoco basin, these being the most important questions at issue.”
On 7th May 1905, an official boundary map was drawn up by Commissioners of Britain and Venezuela delineating the boundary as awarded by the Tribunal. For almost sixty years, Venezuela recognised, respected – and even protected – that boundary.
In 1962 however, as Guyana’s independence drew closer and the neighbour would no longer be Britain but a fledgling State, Venezuela abandoned the path of propriety and with it the rule of law and cast eyes on Guiana’s Essequibo territory.
As Guyana celebrates this anniversary date of the Arbitral Award of Paris of 3rd October 1899, we celebrate the rule of international law and the sanctity of Treaties. We celebrate that our quest for justice has led us to the hallowed halls of the International Court of Justice.
Guyana brought the matter to the Court in an Application submitted on 29 March 2018. The Court confirmed its jurisdiction over Guyana’s claims, rejecting Venezuela’s objections, in a Judgment issued on 18 December 2020. This assures that it will be the Court which decides, with final and binding effect on the parties – Guyana and Venezuela – whether the 1899 Arbitral Award establishing the international boundary between the two States was lawfully issued and remains legally valid and permanently binding as a matter of international law. Guyana is optimistic that the Court will decide the case in its favour, and that the validity of the Arbitral Award and the boundary will be upheld. In the meantime, it is dedicating all of its efforts to the achievement of this outcome.